Head hits dif­fi­cult to reg­u­late

Coach Blashill says ‘phys­i­cal­ity in the game’ be­ing de­bated

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY GREGG KRUPA The Detroit News

Detroit — Go­ing into play Fri­day, the last two sus­pen­sions in the NHL have been for checks to the head.

Eval­u­at­ing the ef­fi­cacy of each sanc­tion con­tin­ues, while gen­eral man­agers dis­cuss chang­ing the rule.

As sports con­tinue to try to pro­tect ath­letes amid mount­ing ev­i­dence that even ca­sual, re­peated con­tact can lead to dire long-term con­se­quences for the brain, es­tab­lish­ing proper rules and uni­formly en­forc­ing them has proven dif­fi­cult.

“I think that who­ever sits in the chair that Ge­orge Par­ros sits in is go­ing to be scru­ti­nized and al­ways has been since they cre­ated it, and will con­tinue to,” Jeff Blashill said Fri­day, re­fer­ring to the head of the head of NHL Depart­ment of Player Safety for the Na­tional Hockey League.

“I think there is a wide va­ri­ety of opin­ions on how it prob­a­bly should be called, from the peo­ple who are giv­ing him di­rec­tion.”

Dur­ing their an­nual off­sea­sons meet­ings, some gen­eral man­agers sup­ported amend­ing Rule 48 to out­law all hits to the head, in­clud­ing in­ci­den­tal con­tact.

But, even­tu­ally, a con­sen­sus emerged to wait.

The main por­tion of the rule cur­rently states, “A hit re­sult­ing in con­tact with an op­po­nent’s head where the head was the main point of con­tact and such con­tact to the head was avoid­able is not per­mit­ted.”

Blashill said it would be dif­fi­cult to re­tain body check­ing and then tell play­ers they could never con­tact the head.

“It’s al­most like we’re want­ing two dif­fer­ent things,” he said. “It’s hard to say we’re al­low­ing hits and then not al­low them to go any­where near a cer­tain part of the body. How do you do both?

“Do you want to have phys­i­cal­ity in the game or not is the big­gest thing that ev­ery­one in­volved in those ques­tions has to an­swer. If you want to have phys­i­cal­ity it will be im­pos­si­ble to take out ev­ery time you get hit in the head.”

Old friend re­turns

Some of the Red Wings said they were happy to see their for­mer de­fense­man Bren­dan Smith in town Fri­day with the Rangers.

“Yeah, Smitty’s a good buddy of mine,” said Danny DeKeyser, flash­ing a big smile. “I still chat with him, ev­ery now and then. It’s good to see him out there.

“But, you know, I’ll be try­ing

to score on him when he is out there.”

Smith played in all 15 Rangers games.

Last sea­son, af­ter sign­ing a four-year $17.4 mil­lion deal, the Rangers placed Smith on waivers four months into the sea­son and as­signed him to the AHL.

“It looks like Bren­dan’s play­ing pretty good hockey. So, that’s great for him,” Blashill said. “I like Bren­dan lots. I re­cruited him un­suc­cess­fully to Mi­ami.

“So, I hope he’s hav­ing great suc­cess.”

Fundrais­ing event

The Red Wings Alumni are rais­ing money to­day for the Guardian An­gels Med­i­cal Ser­vice Dogs, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that trains and do­nates med­i­cal ser­vice dogs to vet­er­ans and first re­spon­ders suf­fer­ing from post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der, brain in­juries and other med­i­cal needs.

The Wings alumni will play Team Stahl to­day at 12:30 p.m. at the St. Clair Shores Civic Arena, 20000 Stephens St.

Ad­mis­sion is $10. Red Wings mem­o­ra­bilia will be avail­able for pur­chase.

David Gu­ral­nick/Detroit News

Coach Jeff Blashill says there’s a “wide va­ri­ety of opin­ions” on reg­u­lat­ing head hits in the game.

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